Mental health toolkit in corona times

How to keep yourself occupied and sane in home quarantine

It has been two weeks of home isolation. Many of us are struggling already. Life has become very different from what it was only a few weeks earlier.

To help you in these difficult times I have created a little mental health toolkit. Dealing with anxiety, getting proper nutrition, exercise and how to keep yourself occupied.

PS: I do not get any money for sending you to any of these websites. I just want to share the resources that I’m using personally to cope with this situation.

Dealing with a unique and scary situation

Okay, first things first, I postponed this post for as long as I could. Not because I didn’t want to help you, but because I did not know how to deal with this new situation myself. It didn’t feel right to just keep posting recipes and nutrition advice in times when it’s difficult to do normal groceries. Like many others, I have completely underestimated what impact the coronavirus would have on us all.

No use to wallow in the past, let’s try to make the best out of this! 🙂

I want to share some tips with you about how I personally cope. Here are some links and techniques to keep you sane, safe and healthy in these unique times. 

Speak your worries out loud

You are probably worried – about your loved ones, your parents, about yourself. 

I am afraid of losing people – especially my parents. I am in a different country than my parents, which makes me feel that I’m not in control at all. That’s scary and the fact that I won’t see my parents in person for another few months is terrifying.

Voicing the worries that you have makes it easier to deal with them. You are not the only one with these worries. We all share them. By voicing them, you will soon realize that we are all in this situation together. You might also pick up some coping mechanisms from others on how to deal with your feelings.

Meditate daily

Times are scary and your mind might be racing. Step away from your worries for a short time and give your head a well deserved little time-out with some meditation.

For me, personally guided meditations work best. They help to focus your mind on your breathing and stop your mind from getting distracted.

  • Headspace has been my meditation app of choice for the last few years. They currently have some free meditations on their site. (1-2 weeks free trial)
  • Insight Timer has free meditation timers and a huge library of guided meditations. (30-day free trial on their website)
  • The Meditation Cafe: A small space in Amsterdam that usually offers guided meditations, workshops, and discussions. I started going here recently for guided group meditation sessions before or after work. They moved from offline to online in these times. Meditation teachers Annie and Steve offer live online guided meditations daily during weekdays. They are free, but you are encouraged to donate. 
  • Of course, you can always rely on Youtube for free video as well.

Eat clean, try new ingredients, learn about swaps

Eating lots of vegetables and fruit is good for your health, digestive system, and ultimately mental health. Try to cook as much from scratch as possible. The less junk food you have in your house, the less junk food you will eat. Shitty food is gonna make you feel more shitty.

Make it a goal to eat a total of 5 portions of vegetables and fruit each day. A portion is a handful. Incorporate high fiber foods into your diet, like whole-grains, oats, and legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils).

Try to not eat out of boredom. If you are mostly staying at home you are probably moving a lot less than usual. This makes it even easier to pile on extra pounds. Keep yourself occupied and only eat when you are hungry.

Transform your kitchen scraps into homemade vegetable stock. Read here how

Learn how to switch out ingredients

It’s difficult to do normal groceries at the moment. You will probably need to swap out several ingredients to make your regular recipes work. Being able to swap ingredients is a skill that you will value for the rest of your life.

  • Jamie Oliver did an amazing job hustling up a whole new TV series in just a couple of days. Keep Cooking & Carry On focuses on how to make easy meals at home with minimum cupboard ingredients. Swaps for all recipes on his website.

Exercise daily

With going to the gym being off-limits for the next few weeks, your home is your new gym! I try to get some exercise every single day – even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Quite happy I started using fewer machines in the gym recently and using more bodyweight exercises. To keep things from getting boring, switch up your routines! 

Everyone is in the same boat and you see lots and lots of home workouts popping up everywhere now.

Bodyweight exercises – no equipment – no excuses

  • Enjoy calisthenic exercises from Minus the Gym. Just 4 exercises. Simple, yet very effective.
  • Jeff Cavaliere from AthleanX has been an inspiration for my gym workouts in recent months. He also has training routines for home exercises.
  • Want to build some serious muscle at home? T-Nation shows you how to fatigue your muscles to the max and encourage muscle growth without equipment.

Follow along with online classes and workouts

Ever did yoga before? 

  • Try new things! I picked up yoga for the first time last week. The app Down Dog generates a new yoga session with video instructions for you every single time. The app is free till May 1st for everyone, and free till July 1st for all healthcare workers. (Need more intensity? They also offer HIIT training)

Tip on going for a walk

Do you want to go out for a walk but want to avoid other people? I tend to go for walks in the evenings around 8-9 now. All streets -even here in Amsterdam- are completely empty by then.

Read all those dusty books on your shelf

Reeeeeeeead! Now is the time to dust off all those books that have been waiting on your shelf for the last months and years. Yes, that book from aunt Sharon that you never looked into and the cookbook from uncle Larry that you never really opened. You finally have some time now. 

Grab yourself some hot cocoa, put your butt on the couch and read a book. 

And while you are at it, sort your bookshelf by color. It has no added value but it’s a fun thing to do

Want more knowledge in less time? 

  • With Blinkist you can listen to the key insights of thousands of bestselling non-fiction books. The audio summaries are short with just 15 minutes or less, the narrators do an awesome job. In 2017 I listened to over 140 books with this app. (7-day free trial)

Learn something new

When was the last time you learned a new skill? Arts & crafts, a new language, or a new professional skill you can put on your CV. Now you have the time to widen your horizon and learn something new.

  • Udemy is a platform for online courses in pretty much everything. Whether you are curious about photography, machine learning, writing music, or picking wild herbs, there’s something for you here. Courses can be pricey, but there are some free ones and Udemy regularly has very steep price-offs. I followed courses on nutrition, fitness, coaching, wine tasting, growth hacking, copywriting, and NLP here. (30-day money-back guarantee on all courses)
Wild mint plants in the outskirts of Amsterdam. You just need to know how to spot them

Support your local food entrepreneurs and restaurants

The hospitality industry and local food manufacturers are bleeding money at the moment. Most restaurants have hardly any cash coming in at the moment while still having to pay bills and their employees. With all the money you are saving by not going out while quarantined, try to support them while you can. Restaurants and bars are the fabric of our social life and you want them to be still there when this whole thing is over.

  • Kitchen Republic in Amsterdam offers Local Market Boxes with which you can support local food producers. I just ordered my second one.
  • Restaurant De Kas (Amsterdam), grows their own veggies and have a surplus now which they sell in boxes. I also ordered one of these already.
  • You can probably find several local initiatives like these in your own town as well. #SupportYourLocals

Buy a gift voucher to support your local restaurant

Buying a gift voucher for your favorite restaurant now can help to keep the place in business. You have something to look forward to and can redeem the gift voucher when the restaurant opens its doors again. More importantly, you help your favorite restaurant owners to pay the bills they have now.


If you fancy some food on the couch, call the restaurant or order directly from their website. Why? Ordering platforms like, etc. take up to 30% commissions on orders! Calling the restaurant is a minor inconvenience for you, but can make sure the owner can spend more money on necessities.

PS. Stop binge-watching Netflix* and create something awesome.

* You are occupying the video call bandwidth for people that want to stay in touch with their loved ones – yes, that’s a real concern in recent days/weeks

Stay at home, stay healthy, take care of each other

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